Dantes Rameau with one of his young students.

Dream come true: A conversation with Atlanta Music Project executive director Dantes Rameau

Mark Gresham | 16 JAN 2019

Dantes Rameau, co-founder and executive director of the Atlanta Music Project, came to Atlanta with a dream of bringing accessible, intensive, tuition-free music education to under-served youth in their own neighborhoods. When AMP launched in 2010, that dream swiftly took flight, as did Rameau’s reputation. Within just a few years, he was named one of the EBONY Power 100 for 2013, that magazine’s prestigious annual picks of the nation’s most influential, impact-driven African-Americans.

Dantes Rameau

Dantes Rameau (credit: Lauren Thomas)

Bassoonist, entrepreneur and educator, the high-spirited Rameau has shepherded Atlanta Music Project through a tremendously successful period of growth since its founding, shaping it into the fiscally sound and sizable operation it is today with some 350 students, 60 teachers and staff, and involving five program locations.

In late 2018, Rameau became recipient of yet two more outstanding honors: he was named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year and is the winner of ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Arts Education.

EarRelevant recently reached out to Rameau to ask about his success and the current status of the Atlanta Music Project.

EarRelevant: Given the level of public spotlight you’ve experienced recently, the question that first comes to mind is: How do you successfully balance your varied roles as administrator, educator and musician?

Dantes Rameau: I appreciate these awards especially because they highlight the journey that Atlanta Music Project young musicians are on to improve their capabilities and become their best selves. The various roles are a challenge, but I always approach them through the lens of a musician. You could say that I am a bassoonist, in disguise as an executive director! I believe the art of mastering a musical instrument is a rigorous, introspective and beautiful process that can help anyone with personal, academic and professional growth.

EarRelevant: Can you describe for us the scope of both the Atlanta Music Project’s work and the community it currently serves?

Rameau: In metropolitan Atlanta there is an abundance of youth orchestras and choirs north of Interstate 20 and a dearth of the same south of Interstate 20. AMP focuses its programming on communities south of I-20, where household income tends to be lower and the free-reduced lunch rate in schools is higher. AMP currently serves 350 K-12 students in orchestra, band and choir. Most come from the neighborhoods around our program sites, but some also travel from further out to participate in AMP because we offer a high quality student experience and professional faculty.

EarRelevant: How much has AMP grown over the years, since you co-founded it in 2010?

Rameau: AMP started with 19 students at the Gilbert House, a city of Atlanta cultural center. That first cohort attended our classes five days per week for two hours each day! Today we have five program sites, a private lesson program and a summer festival and school. Any child can join AMP. “Talent” and prior musical experience are not necessary. Just commitment.

EarRelevant: What do you view as AMP’s most significant successes with regard to corporate support, partnerships with community institutions and collaborations with Atlanta’s music industry?

Rameau: We are very grateful for the philanthropic and community support we’ve received, which allows us to keep our programming tuition-free. The City of Atlanta Department of Parks of Recreation hosts three of our orchestra sites. The AMP Endowed Scholarships at Clayton State supports AMP students who major or minor in music at Clayton State University. The Atlanta United soccer team invited our choir to perform the national anthem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 70,000 people. The music industry in Atlanta has been fantastic, from the Atlanta Opera, to rapper T.I. and R&B star Monica. Oour young artists have performed with all three. Chick-fil-A, MailChimp, TJ Maxx and Bank of America have been supporting us from our early years, and have stuck by us as we approach our 10th anniversary. Cricket Wireless recently sponsored our newest program, the AMP Youth Choirs & Orchestras, for our most advanced young artists.

EarRelevant: A top agenda as of late has been AMP’s capital and endowment campaign for a new headquarters with rehearsal and performance space, projected to open this year. How is that progressing and when can we expect it to open?

Rameau: Yes, we’ve launched “The Next Movement” Capital Campaign, AMP’s campaign to transform music education in Atlanta. It is centered around establishing a headquarters space in the Capitol View neighborhood then expanding our program sites to more underserved neighborhoods. The space will be a hybrid between a music conservatory and a cultural center for the community. We have secured about 70 percent of our $2.9 million campaign goal. We expect to break ground on the Atlanta Music Project Center for Performance & Education in the next couple of months. The entire AMP family is excited! ■